• After the conference held in Cairo in 1994, governments pledged their commitment to reducing the need for abortion through improved family planning services.
• Most people are not aware of the guidelines provided in the Kenyan Constitution for when abortion is allowed.
In 1967, the World Health Organization highlighted unsafe abortion as a health issue affecting women.
However, it wasn’t until 1987 when the safe motherhood conference was held in Nairobi that the world understood unsafe abortion as a public health concern. At the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, governments again identified unsafe abortion as a public health concern and pledged their commitment to reducing the need for abortion through expanded and improved family planning services.
This commitment also appreciated the fact that whereas abortion is against the law, it should be provided in a safe environment by qualified medical personnel to safeguard the health of the mother as a priority.
Thirty two years after the Nairobi conference and 25 years after the Cairo forum, different countries are still grappling with the issues and impacts of unsafe abortion.
WHO, in its 1995 managerial guidelines for improving the quality and availability of abortion care, states that national authorities are responsible for deciding whether and under what circumstances to medically terminate pregnancies.
The Constitution of Kenya, for example, provides situations permitting termination of pregnancy. However, limited knowledge of this constitution results in abortion-related stigma, women resorting to unsafe methods of abortion and increased cases of abortion-related deaths. Prioritising the health of women is urgently needed to reduce maternal deaths.
Implementation of the articles on abortion should go in hand with training of medical personnel, closing quack clinics and educating the communities on the dangers of abortion-related stigma.
Naya Kenya, Nairobi